Tag: music


By James Kwak

My seven-year-old daughter’s new favorite song is, no joke, “Banks of Marble,” sung by Pete Seeger. I swear I had nothing to do with it. She found a Pete Seeger CD one day, which I didn’t even know we had, and put it into our old boombox/CD player when my wife and I were out. (There was a babysitter over, but she was mainly taking care of my toddler son.) When we came home later that afternoon, she announced that it was her favorite song, and that her favorite part was the last verse.

For those who don’t know why this is remarkable, here are the lyrics to the last verse and final chorus:

I’ve seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land;
I prayed we’d get together,
And together make a stand.

Then we’d own those banks of marble,
With a guard at every door;
And we’d share those vaults of silver,
That we have sweated for

Of course, this is the girl who is quoted in White House Burning saying, at age five, that Social Security sounds like “the best program ever.”

Musical Pseudo-Science

By James Kwak

A friend sent me to an article in The Economist titled “The Science of Conducting” summarizing a study by a number of researchers (including apparently at least one real musician). The Economist’s conclusion:

“The findings are in harmony with what conductors knew all along: that baton-toting despots, like the late Herbert von Karajan, do add value—but only if they rein in the uppity musicians in front of them.”

This is more or less what the paper itself claims:

“We propose that the conductor will significantly change the perceived quality of a piece when s/he both increases his/her influence on musicians and, at the same time, expresses a personality able to overshadow the inter-musician communication. In simpler terms, this might be the essence of leadership.”

Continue reading “Musical Pseudo-Science”